A formative literacy assessment the practicum teacher uses and how that assessment informs his or her instruction
When working with a group of ethnically diverse kindergarten-age students, my practicum teacher makes extensive use of formative assessments. One example is the use of a word prediction activity that sheds light on students’ vocabulary size and whether children are successful when it comes to letter recognition. Within the frame of the mentioned word prediction game, the teacher uses a printed list of incomplete sentences, large cards with letters, and cards that represent the missing words and illustrate these notions. The teacher reads one incomplete sentence, for instance, “Kurt and Katherine cook dinner in the …,” demonstrates a card with the letter K on it, encourages a small group of children to name the letter, and asks them to find one matching word starting with this letter. Then, the teacher uses cards with pictures if children cannot come up with an answer and reads another question, choosing difficulty depending on students’ age and language status (some children speak more than one language and may need extra assistance).
The described assessment allows my practicum teacher to evaluate children’s language and literacy abilities and make relevant changes to instruction. Formative assessments provide a considerable amount of helpful information about individual learners’ pace of knowledge acquisition and the presence of unmet needs (Vukelich, Christie, Enz, & Roskos, 2017). Given that formative assessments are helpful in assessing individual performance and fulfill the role of “gap-finders,” the teacher makes notes about the results and uses them to adjust the selection of classroom activities (Vukelich et al., 2017). For instance, if the majority of children struggle with distinguishing between particular letters, the teacher may decide to implement additional letter learning activities and games that provide enough examples of words and proper names starting with these letters, thus emphasizing them.
Another way of how the teacher uses the assessment is to analyze children’s individual differences in alphabet knowledge and vocabulary and discuss the results with families to develop personalized plans of action in collaboration with parents. The described assessment assists the teacher in identifying children that might have undiagnosed speech sound disorders or demonstrate exceptional abilities and need individual learning goals and more challenging letter recognition and vocabulary activities. Therefore, this assessment supports effective classroom instruction by adding to the teacher’s understanding of differences between students in terms of the speed of learning, articulation, memory, and vocabulary.
One of the purposes for progress monitoring is to be responsive to the student’s needs and adjust instructional practices as needed. A teacher’s ability to respond to a child’s needs is only as good as the data they have collected. The most important elements of progress monitoring to making good educational decisions:
From my perspective, the use of progress monitoring tools that are applicable to students across a full range of abilities and those facing language barriers can be listed among the most critical elements of progress monitoring in terms of the ability to promote timely and evidence-based educational decisions. When it comes to special needs students and dual language learners, the use of assessments that are not culturally and disability-sensitive may result in incorrect interpretations of progress monitoring results (Vukelich et al., 2017). Progress monitoring plans that take children’s unique characteristics into account are much more effective in terms of decision-making. It is because they can help to determine whether learners’ insufficient progress has to deal with the presence of methods and illustrative materials that fail to promote inclusion and appeal to all learners.
The second critical element is progress monitoring activities’ connectedness with kindergarten curriculum standards and early learning standards. It is of utmost importance to make curriculum and early learning standards reflected in assessment since it promotes the selection of evidence-based progress monitoring methods, thus positively affecting the quality of instructional decisions. National and state-specific early learning standards and directions for kindergarten curriculum development are based on solid evidence concerning the healthy patterns of children’s cognitive and literacy development (Wilson, 2013). With that in mind, standards allow making reliable predictions regarding the stages of knowledge and skill acquisition, thus promoting the selection of age-appropriate approaches to progress monitoring. If an educational institution’s progress monitoring plan is in conflict with approved standards and knowledge about child development, its use may result in the collection of irrelevant and distorted data that overstate or understate actual learning.
The importance of discussing the purposes for progress monitoring – to be responsive to the student’s needs and adjust instructional practices as needed
In the context of early childhood education, progress monitoring fulfills a variety of purposes and facilitates data collection to evaluate and increase the effectiveness of instruction. It also allows observing trends in how early learners develop cognitively, socially, and psychologically. Discussing and understanding the key purpose of progress monitoring is important since it encourages early education professionals to use a focused approach to student assessment and identify the best age-appropriate assessment strategies that would promote this purpose.
If education specialists misunderstand or do not recognize the key goal of progress monitoring efforts that they are going to implement, they will be likely to sort out priorities in an inadequate way. For example, there is the risk to pay too much attention to specific and decontextualized mistakes of some students rather than trends and tendencies that hint to the reasons why one particular student or many students that share certain characteristics do not respond to classroom instruction as expected. Modern researchers highlight that assessments have to be “purposeful, collaborative, and dynamic” to allow collecting relevant and accurate data regarding instructional adjustments that may be needed (Stover, Yearta, & Harris, 2016, p. 377). With that in mind, understanding the actual purpose of progress monitoring is essential when it comes to the quality of conclusions and proposed methodological adjustments.
Stover, K., Yearta, L., & Harris, C. (2016). Formative assessment in the digital age: Blogging with third graders. The Reading Teacher, 69(4), 377-381. Web.
Vukelich, C., Christie, J., Enz, B., & Roskos, K. A. (2017). Helping young children learn language and literacy: Birth through kindergarten (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Wilson, D. R. (2013). The work sampling system: Pre-service teachers’ experiences with assessment. National Teacher Education Journal, 6(1), 5-8.